Contractors also count themselves among the casualties of Adelphia Communications Corp.'s financial meltdown.
The companies that have aided the MSO in upgrades, digital installations and other field jobs were notified last week that Adelphia will suspend such projects from coast to coast, except where the job is 50 percent or more completed, contractors said.
For many companies, that will mean layoffs, though some firms "jumped ship" from their Adelphia work prior to last week's round of bad news, contractors said.
"We were rewiring multiple-dwelling units in Anaheim [Calif.] when they told us to shut down," said Brian Ohl, an employee of one contractor that does work with cable operators across the country. He was reached in his car as he was headed elsewhere in search of work.
He estimated that "40 guys with wives, kids and mortgages" were left jobless at his site. Many of those affected will have to consider relocation to find work, he added.
As for the firms, "the accounts receivable [awaiting payment] will be astronomical," he added.
Adelphia is having "a big impact on our business," said Joe McGraw, executive vice president of M&D Cable Inc. of Portsmouth, Ohio. His firm does roughly half of its business with Adelphia, completing upgrades and retrofits for the operator in Southern Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.
The shutdown could cause M&D to lay off half of its 100-member work force, although he was also en route to a Charter Communications Inc. office to try to rustle up replacement work.
"Our bank is worried about [an Adelphia] Chapter 11," said McGraw. M&D owes the bank $800,000 — a debt secured by its receivables, he said. McGraw, his wife and his partner could become personally responsible for that debt if Adelphia doesn't pay the company, he said.
Still, he had kind words for Adelphia founder John Rigas, complimenting him and his family for "doing the right thing" by stepping down from their management posts and the board of directors.
"It's a shame. I'm 51 and Rigas has been running that thing since I was 1 or 2," he said.
McGraw is not dwelling on his own problems.
"To be in small business, you gotta be optimistic anyway," he said.
Some contractors said they received some good news last week, though. L&L Cable Services of Owensboro, Ky., got word from its regional Adelphia contact in Ohio that the division got "an infusion of cash."
As a result, the crew will be going back to work within a week, said owner Marc Lambert. L&L is completing aerial and underground work for the MSO.
"I've never had a problem with [Adelphia]," Lambert said. "It takes a while to get your money from all [cable operators]. That's just the cable business."
Even if the company doesn't go back to work on that contract, L&L has jobs lined up with Mediacom Communications Corp. and Charter, Lambert said.
"I don't have my eggs in one basket," he said.